Belly breathing, or abdominal breathing, is a huge part of the yoga practice. During classes, you have probably heard the instructor say things like “breathe into your belly” and “deepen your inhale and exhale”. In yoga, “prana”, or energy, is created through this deep breathing. Let’s dive deeper into why breathing like this is so important and ways in which you can improve your breathing technique.
Belly Breathing vs “Chest” Breathing
Firstly, belly breathing is the practice of breathing deeply into your abdomen. As we go about our day, we tend to breathe in a more shallow way – simply just into our chest. This is fine and normal, and you would probably have a hard time walking around abdomen breathing all day long. Also, this heavy breathing in a Monday morning meeting may come across as serial-killer-ish.
Secondly, the practice of belly breathing is just that – a practice that you would make time for in the day like one would for meditation and asana practice. This practice involves taking larger, slower breaths deep into the bottom of the lungs to the point where you feel the belly expand. It is a conscious practice and one that is really important to master on your yogic journey.
Modern living … has an Impact on Breathing?
If you imagine yourself in a fearful situation, you can picture that in this circumstance your breathing would be quick and shallow. That is, the body is preparing to fight or run away. This kind of breathing allows the body to be in a state of alert, which is good for an emergency situation, but it is not healthy for the long term.
The problem is, modern-day life seems to have us in this state for 90% of our day. For example, traffic gets our heart rate up and our breath quickens. Similarly, stressful meetings leave us with anxiety and shallow breath. The truth is, we are never really mindful of our breathing, and thus the idea of deepening our breath is a bit of a foreign concept.
The other huge problem in our society today is the idea of “suck in the stomach”. People naturally tighten their core because this is how we have been raised. This is not healthy, or natural! Moreover, this tightening leads to tight psoas muscles, which pulls on hip flexor muscles and causes all kinds of chaos in the body. This is a real problem and the majority of society is not aware at all.
Belly Breathing Benefits
- Deeper breathing helps with depression and anxiety. Get yourself out of the “Fight or Flight” mode with deep breathing during the day and witness the difference in anxiety levels.
- It helps to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
- it improves your core muscle stability.
- Deeper breathing allows more oxygen into the blood, which leaves you with more energy and better cardiovascular performance.
- Most importantly, deep breathing lowers stress levels. When stress levels are high, the immune system is at risk. This can lead to sickness and weakness, and this all-round doesn’t lead to the optimisation of the self.
How to Practice
- Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
- Take a moment to relax the body. The spine should be straight, but there should be no feeling of straining or exertion. Relax the shoulder.
- Put your right hand on the chest and left hand on the belly.
- Breathe normally, and feel the chest expanding. The stomach doesn’t do much during a normal breath.
- Now consciously start taking deeper breaths, through the nose, down into the abdomen. The stomach should expand outwards and the chest should remain still. Remember, this is a practice and you may not get it perfectly correct the first few times you do it.
- The belly will sink on the exhale.
- Repeat this several times and note the sensations and effects on your mood.
This practice strengthens the abdominal muscles and may be difficult if your core muscles are slightly weaker. Keep practicing and you will get there!
Breathe out gently…
Belly breathing is just one of the really great breathing practices you can add during your yoga or meditation practice. Try to maintain deeper breathing the next time you go to a yoga class. This is also a great way to stay present and in the moment.
Have a great day.
Lots of light and love xx
Watch this in a video here
Read more articles here